Bigger Smiles, Better Productivity (Pt 1)

Aiming Higher in March

Booking under: Keith

Like most people, I have a day job. And like most people, I wonder how we can be happier in our day jobs. That’s not to say I dislike my work. I’m very fortunate to be in an environment where I can learn, contribute, and make an income. But too often, I wonder if the half-serious exclamations of “TGIF!” and the Monday Blues texts hint at some deeper questions: are we finding happiness in our work? Can we be happier?

In this month’s chapter, Aim Higher, Gretchen shared a few ideas on how we can find more happiness in our work. Here are my takeaways on each one:

1. Launch a Blog

We have a blog! You should check it... Oh, right.

We have a blog! You should check it… Oh, right.

No, writing a blog will not guarantee happiness (trust me I know). However, Gretchen uses this as an example of discovering one’s passions and blending it with our vocation. Her example really resonated with me as I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing too. Incidentally, I’ve been pursuing this interest by moving into a new role at work that will feature a lot more writing than my previous roles. If Erasmus was right, that “the chief happiness for a man is to be what he is”, and if John Stuart Mill was correct that greater happiness results from people given the freedom to pursue their potential, this should lead to a major improvement in my personal wellbeing. At the very least it should cut down on all those “TGIF” moments we all have.

So, in line with my new role and interests in writing, I will commit to doing a little bit of writing each day, whether it is for this blog, for my other blog, or another project I am planning (muahahaha).

2. Ask for Help


If only the office had these…

Part of me doesn’t like doing this because I like being independent and enjoy the feeling of figuring something out. But part of me is also lazy and wants to get easy answers. If only there was an opportunity for me to work out a balance… Oh what? I have a new work role? With plenty of things I need to learn? Perfect!

While it might be hard to find the ideal balance, I figure this will be a great way for me to practice this commitment. By asking for help (after using my available resources), I should be able to eliminate the stress of not having answers, and talking to people more frequently is proven to be better for happiness than being a solitary mute. I won’t settle on a fixed number of questions per day (“Oh crap I don’t know how to do this task, but the quota’s filled!”), but will ask for help when needed.

3. Work Smart

Step 1 to working smart: Wear smart socks

Step 1 to working smart: Wear smart socks?

When I was in business school, I took a Management and Organizations class that also examined work productivity. One of the extremely few things I remember from that class (or from my degree) is that the most productive way to work is to do 90 minutes bursts of undisturbed work, separated by a 10 minute break. During the 90 minutes, let nothing get in your way. When the 90 minutes are up, stop – even if you were in the middle of a task. Take the full 10 minutes of break (surprisingly, it was also a rule to not start working before the 10 minutes were up). Resume work and repeat.

I always imagined myself following this ideal way of working after graduation. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen. Real work introduced meetings that would screw up my imaginary schedule, group work sessions that would stretch past the 90 minute mark, and a range of obstacles to this ideal way of doing things. But now that I have moved on to a new role, with more independence, I will follow this schedule as best as I can. It’s ironic that one of the reasons I could not follow this rule previously was because I too lazy (or busy) to take a break. So here’s my commitment: I will take appropriately timed breaks. The increased productivity should be a boost to my happiness too. And to be honest, who doesn’t like more breaks?

4. Enjoy Now

If you're happy and you know it....

“If you’re happy and you know it…”

Gretchen’s point here is to enjoy the process, not just the end result, of work. Part of that means taking criticisms in stride and not worrying too much about praise or blame. That has been a problem for me since I grew up in an environment with copious amounts of praise and have always disliked (to the point of maybe fearing) criticism.

But here I defer to advice from Gretchen, my dad, Nicole, and countless others. Don’t take work too seriously. At the end of the day, there are more important things in life. And although I’ve believed this in the back of my head, part of me still wants to be perfect and get things right the first time. I will therefore commit to taking a more positive attitude to my work, to enjoy the process and to focus on what I can learn and contribute, while acknowledging criticism without overemphasizing it.

Summing Up

Summing up

Recap time. My commitments this month are:

  1. Launch a Blog – write a bit everyday
  2. Ask for Help – as appropriate
  3. Work Smart – follow the 90:10 rule when possible
  4. Enjoy Now – enjoy the process and focus on the positives

Oh and speaking of Enjoy Now, Nicole and I will be out next week for an overseas trip. For those of you who cannot live without our blog (which of course there are millions), don’t worry – we’ll still have a post out as usual. Just don’t blame us if it’s written in a different language. So where are we going? And how will Nicole Aim Higher in work? Check back with us next week!


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